THE ENDOCANNABINOID SYSTEM
The body is comprised of may different systems – the skeletal system, muscular system, circulatory system and endocrine system, to name a few. Similarly, all bodies contain an endocannabinoid system, also referred to as the ECS. As with all these systems, the main function of the ECS is to main balance (homeostasis) throughout the body.
The ECS was discovered in the early 1990’s, when researchers discovered that the body creates its own cannabinoid, which is called anandamide (which is the Sanskrit word for bliss). The ECS is comprised of 3 different components: endocannabinoids, cannabinoid receptors, and enzymes.
Cannabinoids are chemical compounds that play a very important role in ensuring the body’s central nervous system functions properly. They are naturally produced in the human body and are similar to the cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant. There are 3 different kinds of cannabinoids:
Endocannabinoids, which are naturally created within our bodies
Phytocannabinoids, which mimic the ones in our bodies and are also found in cannabis plants
Synthetic cannabinoids, which are created in a lab
Endocannabinoids are made up of anandaminde (mentioned above) and 2-arachidonoylglycerol. Both of these endocannabinoids bond with the receptors in the ECS, and provide signals to the cells on what they need to do.
The receptors in the body’s ECR are referred to as CB1 and CB2. Discovery of the ECS has paved the way to the identification of these receptors in the body. Knowledge of the receptors has greatly advanced the overall knowledge of how cannabinoids synergistically interact with other cannabinoids and endocannabinoids to produce sometimes profound medical effects. An example often used to describe how these work together are that the receptors are the “lock” and the endocannabinoids are the “key”. CB1 receptors are located within the brain, most frequently in the parts of the brain responsible for mental and physiological functions. CB2 is located throughout the body’s immune system, peripheral nervous system (outside the brain and spinal cord), and the digestive system. Signaling these receptors allows the body to regulate many important functions, such as appetite, digestion, mood, sleep, inflammation, memory, immunity, fertility and more.
HOW DOES CANNABIS CONSUMPTION WORK WITH OUR ECS?
When cannabis is consumed, phytocannabinoids enter the body, which mimic the body’s natural endocannabinoids and help preserve homeostasis. When the body is out of balance, symptoms affecting mood, pain, hunger, mental distress, etc., occur, and consumption of phytocannabinoids will help bring the body’s system back into balance.